Lyrical Laughs

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Appreciating art... even my own

A couple of weeks ago I joined a group of warm and witty females for a night of creating art. Ironically, only days before I had unearthed my last attempt at artwork – an illustration of Jiminy Cricket from a drawing class my family took during a Disney World visit. My cricket was too big and semi-lopsided. That drawing alone should have been enough to deter me from ever trying it again. But this time there would be wine.
Second Born and I were invited to join Best Friend and her mom (affectionately known as Co-Mom), and there was even a special appearance by Big Sister of Best Friend. We were quite the crew with aprons donned, wine glasses in hand, ready to attack our empty canvases soon to be splayed with color. Here’s a hint: Do not wear anything you care about getting splayed, splattered or otherwise painted on when attending a wine and paint party. I swear it had nothing to do with the wine - I came close to coloring myself before the first sip.
Various paintings were displayed throughout the bright, cheery room. My first impression of the place was that it felt inviting and not at all intimidating. I can handle this, I decided confidently. I can turn this blank canvas into an acceptable rendition of the magnificent sunset painting we would soon be duplicating. Stop laughing.
Each station was supplied with four brushes in a container of water, six circles of various colors on a paper plate, and a thousand paper towels. Believe me, it’s barely enough when you have to soak a brush filled with black paint and wipe the color out of it so you can use yellow or white.
Under the guidance of our lead artist, broad strokes of yellow represented a bright ball of sun, followed by a pinkish hue dipping into purple shadows. With the soft thickness of the widest brush we created mountains across the canvas, until our sunset’s brilliance was reflected on a calm lake. A thinner brush swept wispy clouds into the bluish-black skies. A flutter of stars illumined the background. Tree branches dipped toward the water, rocks shimmered with the last light of the day.
I was doing art!
Near the end I stood back to admire my work. Wait a minute… how did my purple sunset disappear under my rock formations? Why do the bluish mountain shadows look more like sloths?
In the meantime the clock was ticking and we were supposed to be winding down. I knew mine wasn’t terrible but I have to admit my interest piqued when the artist mentioned S.O.S. sessions where you could complete or “rescue” a painting. I decided to skip the rescue, since I’m mildly leery of just how wrong a restoration could go.
Looks more like a stage than a sunset!
As Second Born and I were wrapping up I glanced over at Best Friend, Co-Mom and Big Sister. They were bent over their paintings, frantically adding the finishing touches before someone grabbed the brushes out of their hands. Their stars twinkled where mine dribbled and their wispy clouds didn’t look like my splotches. But the best part of those last few minutes was seeing mom and daughters working and playing together.
I wasn’t going for perfection – my goal was to laugh, enjoy the camaraderie, handle important issues like why the leaves on my tree looked like paws, and not get kicked out of class for smearing paint on everything within reach. Mission accomplished.

For a week or so, Second Born’s painting and mine were temporarily displayed on the end of the kitchen table, not necessarily to be admired first thing in the morning. Eventually they had to be relocated - at the moment they're both in her room (she doesn't know that yet). She chose to leave her piece behind when she headed back to college last weekend, but I have plans for my own attempt at art. It will eventually be displayed on a wall in the spare room...
which is a vast improvement over Jiminy Cricket’s place in the closet.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Was it karma that I was klunked by Clynk?

About a week ago you might have witnessed me skulking around the local supermarket entrance. I was talking to Spouse on my cell phone while waiting for a store clerk to return with my eyeglasses from the bottle redemption center. Why, you ask? Because, honestly, what happened could only happen to me. I think.

Spouse and I are pretty good about recycling and collecting bottles for return, though we tend to procrastinate over bringing them to the recycling center. Fortunately, our local grocery store has it own special container on the other side of the parking lot for this very purpose. The redemption program is called Clynk. Isn’t that cute?

You can park your car right next to the facility, scan the little UPC code on your filled bags and toss the returnables through a door instead of lugging big, bulky bags into the store. It sounds so easy, and it is.

For most people.

Spouse had loaded a couple of bags into the trunk of my car a few days earlier, so I had no excuse for not dropping them off. On my way to the grocery store I pulled up to the Clynk facility, parked my car and grabbed the bags of bottles out of my trunk, ignoring the signs suggesting that drivers turn their engines off.

First I had to get the hatch opened, which proved to be a challenge. I swung the UPC code in front of the scanner and heard the official beep signaling that I had seconds to pull that heavy sucker open and toss the bags into the container.  Immediately I lost all control of the situation.

As I struggled to hold the hatch open and throw the first bag in, the door slipped and smacked me in the back of my head. The bag was already in full motion as I flung it through the opening at the same moment that my eyeglasses – which had been bumped off my face from the force of the door smack – torpedoed into the container right past the bag of bottles.

I stood there alone in the chilly parking lot rubbing the rapidly growing bump on the back of my head. Was this karma because I didn’t turn off my car while recycling, as the sign (which came just short of listing every species I was saving) had gently suggested?

After tossing the second bag to the side of the other one, I knew there was only one thing to do. I drove over to the supermarket and sheepishly approached the customer service counter. How do I explain that my eyeglasses had a mind of their own and decided to catapult into an eternal pit of returnables? Somehow I explained what happened and waited for the clerk to snicker or snort or something.

She didn’t even flinch.

The next thing I know, another store clerk was walking toward the Clynk container and I was on the phone telling Spouse about this embarrassing incident. He had more of a reaction than the store clerk, which made me wonder… how often do they need to retrieve items from the cavernous bottle vacuum protected by a door that could be used on armored cars? Maybe this is a common occurrence that should be noted with a warning, right next to the suggestion to turn your car motor off.

Scene of the debacle
My eyeglasses were returned in just a few minutes and I finished my shopping without incident, though that bump on my head was a reminder of what you might deem a low point for a few days.

There has to be a moral to this story, I thought to myself. Why else would I be attacked by a door, earn a bump on the noggin and lose my glasses - just because I broke a sort of rule that was really just a suggestion?

Apparently, the moral of the story is that when Spouse and the kids don’t provide me with enough material for my column, God provides. And God definitely has a sense of humor.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The great coffee maker (sort of) tragedy of 2016

Last Friday I took the day off from work so I could do my own thing, which meant doing something for everyone else, since it was the Friday before Christmas and I had very-last-minute shopping to do. I was barely awake when Spouse came into the bedroom with his breakfast on a plate and obvious distress in his eyes.

“We have a BIG problem,” he said in a semi-tragic tone. Before I had a chance to ask what could possibly be so terrible, he uttered a phrase that can strike terror into the hearts of even a morning person.

“The coffee maker died.”

No.  No No No. Not on a Friday. Not on my day off. Not before I had even a sip of life-giving java. Tell me one of the cats destroyed our living room curtains (which I wanted to replace). Tell me someone broke in and stole all our furniture (which I also wanted to replace). Just please - don’t even hint at the suggestion of a coffee-less morning.

Spouse somehow dragged himself to work where he would be able to hit the coffee bar, but Second Born and I were on our own. There was only one thing to do. Just as a mother eagle soars through the air and hunts for sustenance in order to help her babies thrive, I knew I had to be the hero. I threw sweats on over my pajamas, crawled to the car and drove to the corner store. What I discovered there was nothing short of Coffee Utopia.

Toward the back of the store stood a display of 25 beautiful, shiny coffee urns, each with a unique flavor or strength. My heart leaped with joy, but my eyes swept over this plethora of caffeine choices with a sense of panic.  How do I choose between Cinnamon Sugar Cookie and Egg Nog? Wait – is that Pecan Sticky Buns? Toasted Marshmallow Mocha? “What is this place?” I whispered in awe.

The choice was heart wrenching. After several minutes of indecision over the two rows of caffeinated (and decaf, to be fair) goodness, I eventually went with Plan B. I narrowed it down to two flavors and left with a pledge to return to this wondrous place.

Plan A had been to bring home eight cups.

I returned home and walked in the door to find Second Born staring into space. At my appearance she exclaimed, “Oh thank goodness,” and lunged for one of the two cups in my hand.

I needed the caffeine boost to start my morning more than ever, especially now that the crucial task of finding a new coffee maker had to be done before the sun set on our collection of coffee mugs.

The research began in earnest after breakfast. I looked up reviews of the top ten automatic drip coffee makers with timers. I searched store websites to see who had what on sale. Armed with model numbers and pictures on my phone, Second Born and I began our relentless pursuit of the best match for our coffee needs.

Here’s the thing about the models on those lists. If you want Model XR-43383 you probably won’t get any closer than XR-43380. It’s bait and switch – bait them with the promise of awesomeness and switch it to the one they overstocked.

After 15 minutes of nothing matching up, Second Born suggested ordering one online. I stared at her as if we could not possibly be related. Wait at least four days for delivery because of the holiday? We would have to cancel Christmas. She hung her head in shame.

About that relentless pursuit… we grabbed one with the features we wanted (you know, like brewing coffee) and called it a day.

The next morning the sound and scent of coffee grounds and water harmoniously blending wafted down the hallway. All was right with the world once again, but there is one little thing. I believe a cup of Jamaican Me Crazy is still calling me from the corner store.

My Annual Black Friday Flyer Weigh-In

A couple of years ago I started a new tradition. I call it the Black Friday Flyer Weigh-In. I find it funny – in that “Are you kidding me?” way and not so much in a ha-ha way – that we get not one, but two newspapers that we’re not even subscribed to on Thanksgiving Day, both stuffed with advertisements from some of the most, and least, interesting places. I became curious over the amount of paper wasted, trees ripped out of the ground, and ink splayed over the surface of this printed wasteland. I’m still on paper, so don’t expect actual statistics here.

Five pounds. That’s how much our friendly neighborhood mass marketing mess weighed this year. Five pounds of sales on candy, clothing, computers, clocks, candles, clogs and other assorted and sundry items… and that’s just starting on the letter C. It is wasted on Spouse and me. We aren’t big on wading through crowds to find the perfect gift for anyone, not even each other. We do exchange small gifts but now that the Love Couple has decided it would be fun to live a flight away, and Second Born’s college is a hop, skip and a nine-hour-drive, we tend to invest in travel and hope they appreciate our presence over presents.

When the kids were little it was great fun to have them open a bunch of little gifts and then one big-ticket item, but now that the girls are more aware of how much things cost, their requests are simpler these days. They are, however, willing to accept cash in the form of the green stuff or gift cards. They’re good like that.

One good thing about sales flyers is that they provide you with plenty of ideas for gifts if you happen to have a big family, or one persnickety relative whose name you got in this year’s Secret Santa drawing…. like maybe an air popped popcorn maker or binoculars. Those two things alone cover a broad spectrum of gift giving. Or you can spring for one of those tracking thingies that tells you how far you walk and how well you sleep, and yells at you for turning the television up too loud or leaving your dish in the sink. Wouldn’t every college student love that? It’s like having Mom right there with you. Fine, maybe not.

We may not get much use from the flyer pile, but Spouse can’t resist picking up “just one more” inflatable animal or decoration for the front yard. I think he’s trying to signal Santa with lights and waving bears. We have more decorations now than we did before Second Born left for college four years ago. I’ll bet those folks that drive around town looking for decorations a couple of weeks before Christmas are saying, “Hey, let’s go by that house where the kids grew up and left, and see if they added another penguin this year.”  I will not be showing Spouse the minion on the Lowe’s flyer.

Even if you don’t go crazy with gifts for the holiday, all these advertisements have to provide you with ideas for any special occasion, or just because you want it. There are good deals on headphones, waffle makers, earrings and egg timers.  You can even pick up a Porsche for a steal… not literally, please.

There is one more purpose for this mound of marketing. It’s a great incentive for losing weight. I dropped five pounds just by walking to the recycling bin.